Washington: A US federal appeals court rejected Thursday former president Donald Trump’s bid to prevent the release of White House records relating to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
The appeals court agreed with a lower court ruling that President Joe Biden could waive executive privilege on the records, so that they could be handed over to a Congressional panel investigating the violence by Trump supporters.
Trump, who has been accused of fomenting the attack on the US Congress, sought to exercise his privilege as a former president to keep secret the documents and phone records that might relate to the attack.
But the court said Biden’s judgement carried more weight in the case.
“The right of a former President certainly enjoys no greater weight than that of the incumbent,” the appeals court said in its ruling.
“In this case, President Biden, as the head of the Executive Branch, has specifically found that Congress has demonstrated a compelling need for these very documents and that disclosure is in the best interests of the nation,” the court said.
Supreme Court appeal expected
The ruling did not immediately release the records. The appeals court said that Trump’s lawyers would have two weeks to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
There, Trump’s attorneys are expected to request a new freeze on the release while the high court reviews the unprecedented case.
The appeals court also said the public interest was greater than Trump’s own in relation to the records.
“That public interest is heightened when, as here, the legislature is proceeding with urgency to prevent violent attacks on the federal government and disruptions to the peaceful transfer of power,” it said.
The records, held by the National Archives, are sought by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 violence, in which hundreds of Trump supporters forced the shutdown of Congress and delayed a joint session to confirm that Joe Biden had won the November 2020 election and would become president.
Documents that Trump hoped to block include records from his top aides and memos to his press secretary.
The more than 770 pages include records of his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, his former senior advisor Stephen Miller and his former deputy counsel Patrick Philbin.
Trump had also hoped to block the release of the White House Daily Diary — a record of his activities, trips, briefings and phone calls.
Another trove of documents Trump does not want Congress to see includes memos to his former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, a handwritten note on the January 6 events and a draft text of his speech at the “Save America” rally, which led up to the attack.